In Their Own Words
Packing To Go
Compiled by Prof. Jim Tompkins
Disclaimer: Prof. Jim Tompkins has compiled the following information for classes he has taught. He has kindly contributed them for general use. This information has been gathered from a variety of sources and, while it is free to use, copyright infringements may make it unsuitable for commercial purposes.
*** Warning *** Do Not Overload Your Wagon!
It Will Only Carry 2500 Pounds
From the Platte River to the mouth of the Columbia the trail is strewn with discards.
Too heavy a load will wear down your stock and leave you stranded.
But Don't Forget To Bring What You Need!
Wagon and Accessories (Set out in a sturdy vehicle, either your trusty farm wagon or buy a new one in Missouri. Make sure it is constructed out of well-seasoned wood, with a bed of 10-12 feet long and strong enough to carry 2500 pounds. Fit it with six or eight hickory bows to support a doubled over, waterproof canvas. Caulk all seams tightly, for your "prairie schooner" must ford many streams.)
Wagon Spare Tongues Wagon Cover Oakum Rope Spare Axles
Wagon Jack Spare Wood Brake Chains Spare Spokes Tar Bucket
Stock (Four yoked pair of oxen are preferred, but mules are acceptable, no horses. An ox out pulls two mules, endure heat and fatigue better and are less likely to be stolen by Indians. Buy oxen 4-6 years old and raised in Illinois or Missouri on wild grass. Break them to harness and teach them to"gee" and "haw" and they will be your best friends on the trail.)
Oxen Whip Ox Shoes Milch Cows Ox Yokes
Nose Twitcher Milk Bucket Stool
Tools (Pack an assortment of hand tools for emergency repairs. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and other skilled craftsmen, take along all the tools of your trade you can carry.)
Axes Hand Saw Crosscut Saw Hammers Augers Gimlet
Draw Knife Chisels Pinchers Files Nuts & Bolts Extra Links
Nails Staples Washers Bar Iron Pickaxe Plow
Pitch Fork Shovel Scythe Hoe Wedge Whetstone
Farmers Tools (Don't depend upon the mercantiles of Oregon City to have everything you need to start a new farm, or to have the best quality.)
Plows Scythe Blades Hoes Seed and Starts
Food (Reserve most of your wagon for food and stock your larder with a heavy hand. Even the most delicate appetite grows ravenous in the brisk air and energetic life of the trail. Trading posts are few and far between, prices are high, and you cannot depend upon fresh game to replenish your supplies. Time is of the essence and emigrants should go prepared to travel, not hunt. Bring a pair of milch cows. They remind you of home and add welcome nourishment to your daily fare. Hang a churn off your wagon in the morning and by noontide you can taste fresh buttermilk.)
Flour (120 Ibs per person)
Dried Fruit (2 bushels)
Coffee (10 Ibs)
Tea (7 Ibs)
Bacon (150 lbs per person)
Saleratus (Baking Soda)
Sugar (20 Ibs)
Cooking Utensils (You will do most of your cooking in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over an open fire. But if you can afford the extra weight, a small cast iron stove will prove a great luxury. Leave your fine china behind, a few pieces of tinware will do.)
Cast Iron Stove
Bedding and Tent Supplies (Your wagon may look comfortable and safe from the weather, but unless you plan on unloading it every evening, bring a tent and camping gear.)
Blankets (2 each)
Clothing (With reference to clothing, I say take no trumperies and use any old clothes you happen to have. But if you wish sturdy garments, bring these. Ladies, shorten your dresses or cast modesty aside and don bloomers. Vanity has no place on the trail! Wear India rubber galoshes and sunbonnets. Veils and goggles shield your complexions and protect you from the dust. Nature
provides men with clothing for the face and throat. Lock up your razors and try to believe you cannot improve on God's greatest work!)
India Rubber Galoshes
Miscellaneous Luxuries (It is said not to bring any luxuries, but I tell you that some are necessary. Keep them light and the trail will be just a little smoother.)
Candles (8 Ibs)
Soap (9 bars)
Weapons (Each male over 16 should equip himself with a good shotgun and rifle. Carry at least eight pounds of powder and ten of lead. NEVER LEAVE A CAPPED GUN IN YOUR WAGON!)
Medical Supplies (Avoid large quantities of medicines. Cleanliness and frequent bathing are your best preventives of sickness. Many emigrants find that the constant walking in the invigorating air improves their health and endurance.)
Essence of Peppermint
Rum or Whiskey
Learn to pack your wagon with an eye to the convenience of things. Many use carpetbags and sacks to save weight, but I advise constructing special boxes of a uniform height to provide a comfortable sleeping platform. Place your tools and cooking utensils in a handy spot - under the driver's seat or hanging from the wagon. A clever wife will sew pockets and slings onto the inner lining of the wagon cover. Wrap butter in cheesecloth and store inside cornmeal. Do not fail to reserve a place for the chamber pot. The vast expanse of treeless plains denies you privacy when you need it most!
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